The inspiration for my birthday cupcakes this year was birthed several years ago when my sister-in-law's sister, Gloria, served jumbo vegan chocolate cupcakes from French Meadow Bakery at a baby shower she hosted for my great niece, Whitney. Whenever Dick and I are in Minneapolis, we often drop by the bakery for this special treat, but, in the interim, I now have a stand-in. Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, a recipe from Prevention Magazine October 2014 pp. 130-131. I wasn't able to do a side-by-side taste comparison, but I think these are a close match to the dense, hearty, substantial French Meadow ones that I love so much.
Keep in mind that the beets require roasting, cooling, peeling, and pureeing... which isn't a huge effort expenditure, just advance prep. A happy day for a baker is when, upon peering through the oven door, cupcakes rise to form perfect mounds and post baking do not collapse in the middle providing a perfect foundation for lovely frosting tinted pink with beets.
Chocolate Beet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting
1 ¼ cups (unbleached) cake flour
1 cup sugar (I used ½ cup. Perfect.)
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 1/3 cup to offset the reduced sugar.)
¾ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
¾ cup puréed cooked beets plus 1 tbsp for frosting
2 tbsp safflower oil (I subbed coconut oil.)
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla
¾ cup (whole) buttermilk
2 cups powdered sugar
4 oz reduced-fat (Neufchatel) cream cheese, room temperature
¼ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
½ tsp vanilla
1 tbsp beet purée (I think I used 1 tsp. It requires very little to tint the frosting.)
(For the frosting, I reduced all quantities by half, omitted the cream cheese, and slowly added a scant 1 ½ tsp whole milk, cream or half & half until spreadable consistency is achieved. )
Roast beets* and purée with a little water in a food processor or blender until smooth. Heat oven to 350°. Line 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners. Sift flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in large bowl. Whisk beet purée, oil, egg, vanilla, and buttermilk together in small bowl. Stir in dry ingredients until combined. (Don’t overmix.) Divide among 12 paper liners. (I think I filled 9, maybe 10.) Bake until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 16 minutes. Cool completely. To make frosting, beat ingredients until smooth and fluffy. Spread over cupcakes.
*"Roasting beets is the preferred method for cooking beets. It not only preserves the flavor, it also enhances color and provides the best texture." (Clean Eating Magazine Nov/Dec 2009) To roast beets, remove the leaves keeping about 1 inch of the stem to prevent the beet from losing its juices and drying out during roasting. Wash the beets in cold water being careful not to tear the skin. Arrange beets in the center of a large piece of foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then wrap the foil around the beets folding the edges closed. (I used a covered casserole dish instead of aluminum foil and rubbed the beets’ skin with th oil.) Roast at 400°F until the beets are very tender, about 45 minutes. Time will vary depending on the size of the beets. After coating your fingers in olive oil to prevent staining, gently remove the skins from the beets with a sharp knife; the skins should slip off easily. Cut off the stems and bottoms.